Agricultural Research Service honors Hall of Fame members who have passed

Ernest James Harris, an Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame scientist internationally known for finding innovative ways to control fruit flies that threaten crops around the world, died recently at his home in Kaneohe, Hawaii. He was 89.

His technologies have been key to eradicating foreign fruit flies in California, Florida and other U.S. mainland states as well as keeping areas free of these pests that would require costly quarantines and interfere with millions of dollars of agricultural exports.

“Dr. Harris’ contributions to agriculture continue to have a global impact and serve as a testament to his dedication, his perseverance and to a career focused on a commitment to excellence,” said ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young.

Harris was named to the ARS Science Hall of Fame in September for his innovative scientific contributions to agriculture. The ARS Hall of Fame was established in 1986 to honor senior agency researchers for outstanding, lifelong achievements in agricultural science and technology.

Harris was the second ARS Hall of Fame member to die in recent months.

Microbiologist Cletus P. Kurtzman, who was one of the curators of the ARS Culture Collection, passed away in November.

He was world renowned for his pioneering development and use of molecular biology techniques to identify and describe microorganisms of agricultural, biotechnological, scientific and medical importance. His research fundamentally changed the field of yeast taxonomy.

His discovery of yeasts capable of fermenting simple plant sugars is credited with reviving industry efforts to convert crop biomass materials, like corn bran, into ethanol fuel.

Kurtzman was inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame in 2016.